Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shock 'n' Ahhh

In the lighter entertainment side of political douchebag comings and goings, I think many of us have been waiting for some names to drop in the D.C. Madam case. Not really for the basic prurient gossip content of it so much, but rather to see just how many sanctimonious sex-obsessed hypocrites -- from any party, though obviously they tend to coagulate in Hezbullah the GOP -- get hoist on their own petard.

Palfrey's flamboyant attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, said Friday that he has been contacted by five lawyers recently, asking whether their clients' names are on Palfrey's list of 10,000 to 15,000 phone numbers. Some, Sibley said, have inquired about whether accommodations could be made to keep their identities private. ABC is expected to air a report on Palfrey and her clients on "20/20" on May 4, during sweeps.

More revelations are in the offing. Ross said the list includes the names of some "very prominent people," as well as a number of women with "important and serious jobs" who had worked as escorts for the firm.

The disclosures have been made sparely and artfully. Two weeks ago, in court documents about calling former clients to testify on her behalf, Palfrey named Harlan K. Ullman, an academic whose main claim to fame was a scholarly paper he wrote more than a decade ago on the military strategy known as "shock and awe." Responded Ullman: "It doesn't deserve the dignity of a response."

Sibley also filed notice that he intends to depose political consultant Dick Morris in a separate civil proceeding. Morris would not comment.

Well, how could he? He had something in his mouth, whether it was some woman's toes or the administration's figurative wang. Not that it matters; bringing down a hump like Dick Morris would be like trying to bring down Geraldo Rivera -- they've already beaten you to it, pally.

It's just fun to be reminded once in a while that, as self-righteous as these people pretend to be while they're picking our pockets, they're every bit as warped as they lecture us heathens for being. They just pay a lot more for it than most people. Three hundred bucks for a "massage", there better be a very happy ending.

In the meantime, a lot of very important sphincters are going to be clenched for the next week or so, pending the release of more names. Fun stuff.

Slam Dunk This

When Tenet has the scruples to return his Medal O' Freedom, then maybe we'll listen to what he has to say. Till then, I have hands; I don't need self-serving public officials to jerk me off.

And in that context, it is at least somewhat entertaining to watch Condi Rice scramble from green room to green room, desperately trying to flood the proverbial zone all by her lonesome. I mean, who the fuck else can they put out there at this point? Big Time? Doug Feith? Steve Hadley? Shit, you might as well just put Fredo himself up there and let him do his Rorschach-free-association babble. So that leaves Rice, madly spinning like a top.

"Look, not everything went right," Rice said. "This is a very difficult circumstance. There were some things that went right and some things that went wrong. And you know what? We will have a chance to look at that in history. And I will have a chance to reflect on that when I have a chance to write my book."

"Look, not everything went right." Understatement of the century thus far, I'd say. And what "some things" precisely "went right"? Specific examples, please. No doubt "removing Saddam" would be at the top of their list, despite the horrible price paid.

And gee, it's great to know she's working on her memoirs as well. Exactly how many trees should be utterly wasted, so that these fools can try to cover their asses? Just put it out in two-ply.

Beam Me Up

Okay, I've got some news for you, and I'm going to break it to you reeeeaaaal slow-like, so's you have sufficient time to absorb its fundamental truths:

It's a TV show, people.

THEY had gathered before dawn for the spectacle and in the end they got the promised "fiery streak across the sky".

And all were agreed - Trekkies, anxious relatives and the gathered ranks of the media - that last night Scotty the Scottish engineer from Star Trek got the send-off he deserved.

To cheers and wild applause you would not normally expect at a service for the dead, Spaceloft XL - with the ashes of James Doohan, the Irish Canadian actor who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the cult space series, and the remains of 199 fellow "astronauts" took off on a perfect New Mexico morning.

Okay, dude, follow along with me. James Doohan was an actor. He portrayed a fictional character on a TV show, a show which lasted three seasons, was cancelled thirty-five years ago, and spawned a few movies of modest import and entertainment value. It's not real. William Shatner is not really the captain of a starship. In fact, there is no actual starship. It's a model. There are no "Klingons", except when you wipe your butt improperly.

Scotty became best known for the catchphrase, "Beam me up, Scotty," even though it was never actually uttered during the programme by James T Kirk, the captain of the Starship Enterprise.

Pretty much says it all, that a guy can be most well-known for a phrase that was never uttered. I loves me some collective psychosis.

Jesus, move out of your parents' basements already and get laid. Preferably with human women; putting an Uhura tunic on your inflate-a-date does not count.

Bogus Emotion

Finally got around to watching The Queen last night, and while I enjoyed the craft of it very much, I'll be damned if I could tell who the villains were supposed to be. I get that we're supposed to be put off by QE2's stiff upper lip, her refusal to participate in the ritualized emoting of the crowd.

It brought all that back, when I thought I'd forgotten about it, the baffling displays of the most self-serving, mawkish caricatures, heaps of placards and sobbing adults planted outside the gates, waiting for some sort of sign they could find "acceptable". I couldn't stand those fucking people then, and I understand them even less now.

All I could think about as the movie wound down was Hitchens' wonderful essay written one year AD (After Di), lampooning the feeling-mining industry populated largely by buffoons taking advantage of cretins.

Twelve months on, and the whole diaphanous veil has melted away. In Britain, increasingly irritable and frayed groups of fans debate which memorial "she" would "really have wanted." Let's see now: There's the Graceland theme-park that has already ruined the bucolic village of Althorp, which her thuggish brother happens to own. Since Lord Spencer publicly refused to have her to stay on the estate after her divorce, that perhaps won't quite do -- even if she is buried there.


This inflexible law is beginning to tell. As the efforts to recapture the lost rapture become tacky and second-rate, so they raise the inescapable question: What was that all about in the first place?


The divine one's will, when published a little later, reserved not one penny for charity and redistributed a huge fortune among the richest families in the country. The queen, famed for her public composure, did not weep before the cameras until the moment when her Royal Yacht was towed away to the scrapyard a few months after that. Mohammed Fayed has been exposed yet again as a vulgar influence-peddler and distributor of thick envelopes. Lord Spencer's divorce proceedings have revealed him to be the centerpiece of one of the nastiest bunches of upper-class bastard-dom since the disappearance of Lord Lucan.

I never knew what it was all about in the first place. I still don't, probably never will. As near as I can tell -- and The Queen only affirms this suspicion, though it doesn't sufficiently explore it -- the ludicrous spate of Diolatry was a necessary indulgence of the British press, who desperately needed to gin up some sort of contrived event to deflect from the cold hard truth that they literally hounded this woman to death. (Along with the people who keep them in business by purchasing their starfucking nonsense.) But at street level, it seemed less like a genuine need to grieve than the need to be seen grieving, a rather plastic affectation of grief, of allowing tabloid press and mob mentality to ventriloquize basic impulses to a completely unrealistic degree.

The Windsor family's reactions in the aftermath were deemed culturally unacceptable, given their (and Diana's, for that matter) role as a rather expensive appendage, a vestigial artifact of a re-imagined time best forgotten. The populace's discontent with that reaction may have betrayed a more fundamental irritation with the diminished utility of having a royal family in the first place, whether they want to admit it or not. But if they need that much fluff and ceremony to bookend their lives, be it in the guise of ostentatiously marrying and burying their emotional avatar, or in supporting a particular family in outlandish splendor, then it's probably a moot question to begin with.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The New Deal

Whoever this Atrios fella is, I think he has it about right:

Left of center blogs filled various connected vacuums which were created by a triangulating-against-itself-Democratic party, a media with a "no liberals on TV or radio" rule, and the post-9/11 media prostration to the Bush administration and its complete abdication of its responsibility with respect to the Iraq war, all of which followed its campaign 2000 prostration to the Bush candidacy. Overall what blogs have been able to do is create an unfolding political narrative which has been largely absent elsewhere. Sometimes it's about emphasizing different things, sometimes it's about combating DC conventional wisdom, sometimes it's about highlighting things which are being ignored. But taken all together it's about telling the story of politics in a different way.


I remember years ago I'd know exactly when the few compelling liberal voices would have their moments. I knew when Joe Conason's column would hit the NY Observer, when Paul Krugman's column would hit the NYT, when Michelangelo Signorile's column would hit the New York Press. There were so few of them, voices in the wilderness, and there weren't enough to sustain a narrative.

That's pretty much it. The old-media darlings are wasting their time worrying about revenue models and such. It wasn't the revenue model that was the problem, though that is shifting tectonically right under their feet.

Their problem is that they don't recognize, even still, that there is simply a sizable bloc of politically-aware people out there who have had it with staid, diffident establishmentarianism. I have no use for a pundit who, by virtue of sheer longevity, thinks he has cred, and then shreds said cred with useless columns that mindlessly compare the intemperate rhetoric of Harry Reid straight across with the baldfaced lying and shameless incompetence of Alberto Gonzales.

It is hopelessly unserious writing and analysis, and since none of the other media monkeys have the balls to honestly criticize one of their own, it is left to us to do it. That it is generally done in the most vituperative, incivil manner available at any given time doesn't lessen its value one iota; that they choose to focus on the flavor of the commentary instead of the uncomfortable truths contained therein is exactly the problem at hand.

These old-school bozos are going to have to get with the program and start producing something of value, rather than more CYA boilerplate and empty-headed feints at sensible centrism. They are not centrists at all; they are, as Atrios points out, merely aristocrats, claiming their turf, talking to each other about each other, and all their little cocktail-weenie-appletini kewl kid friends.

Well, they have MySpace for that shit nowadays. Even if I had the opportunity, I can't imagine why I would want to work with these idiots, or even "dialogue" with them. I have nothing to say to any of them. I don't have a house in Nantucket, or a cushy sinecure pumping out twice-weekly pablum for the bewildered herd.

So we're working around them, and the sooner we're mercifully rid of the lot of them, the better off we'll all be. They've had every opportunity to bring out the best. Instead they've been content to enable the worst tendencies of a diseased, sclerotic system.

And the worst part of it for them, despite their tiresome ministrations about "civility", is that they know they're being ignored, that the only reason we even bother with them anymore is to point and laugh. For a bunch of preening ego-trippers, that's even worse than getting fired.

Flush Limpballs

I don't think Limbaugh is a racist per se, any more than Don Imus is actually a racist. On the surface, the two are somewhat comparable in that they trade in the superficial schtick of threadbare Archie Bunkerisms. But if anything, Limbaugh's stylistic tics are and have been much more pernicious, much more attuned with the disgusting underbelly of cracker racism that still festers in pockets -- pockets which are coincidentally the most inclined to buy the rest of Limbaugh's bottomless piles of lies and slander.

Much of Limbaugh's ebonics-baiting and cheap minstrelsy works on that limbic cracker level. But it has the added bonus of, by caricaturing the Democrats' political correctness on most matters of race, lampooning the reliable "mommy party" trope. This further effeminizes them in the eyes of the manly men closet cases who hang on Limbaugh's every toxic harrumph. It's a pretty sweet scam when you think about it, because it kills several birds with just a few rote affirmations.

We are very much in love with the notion of the "free marketplace" skewing the exchange of ideas, when it manifests itself in the guise of "culture warriors" gang-faxing NBC to pull shows that offend their religious viewpoints. Yet the idea of pulling Limbaugh's racist and sexist schtick out into the sunlight, and perhaps embarrassing his advertisers, forcing them to decide publicly whether this shit adds any value to a serious political debate, is apparently an attack on the first amendment. I don't buy it.

I don't think Imus should have been mau-maued with such haste, nor do I think Limbaugh should just have his useless, drug-addled ass yanked, simply because they say "offensive" things -- or, in the case of Limbaugh, make an actual career out of calumniating his ideological opponents. But I do think that they should be forced to defend the things they do from time to time, to explain themselves. As should their listeners, these dumb-as-dirt morlocks who think that songs like "Barack the Magic Negro" are not only funny, but have any real point to them.

It's of a piece with Ann Coulter's nonsense. If you think that a serial plagiarist who cracks wise about assassinating presidents and supreme court justices, and calls the widows of 9/11 a bunch of opportunistic whores is somehow "funny", or somehow makes some sort of coherent point, then fucking say so. If these people cannot defend their choices, then they should fuck off already. And if the companies who sponsor animals like Limbaugh, Michael Weiner, and the rest of the Horst Wessel gang, can only defend that sponsorship of destructive rhetoric in the most crass terms of cost-effectiveness, then maybe it's time to make it a little less cost-effective for them.

It's Getting Drafty

As expected, the Raiders picked LSU QB Jamarcus Russell #1. There was some idle speculation about them possibly taking WR Calvin Johnson instead, and considering Johnson's phenomenal athletic stats (6'5", ran a 4.35 40 in borrowed shoes), it would have been understandable.

But without someone to throw to him, Johnson would have simply been a high-priced band-aid on a hopelessly floundering team. And Oakland has to serious about getting their o-line together in a major, major way, or they'll just be paying Russell $30 million to serve as a tackling dummy, and wreck yet another quarterback's career. There is no reason Oakland shouldn't have won at least eight or nine games with Aaron Brooks, or even Kerry Collins, except their chronic o-line problems.

It's easy to dump on the #2 pick from a few years ago, Robert Gallery, who has been little more than a turnstile on this line, after never surrendering a single sack in his entire collegiate career at Iowa. Having four line coaches in three seasons, and being shuttled back and forth from right to left tackle will do that. And clearly last season showed that Art Shell and Jackie Slater thought they were still dealing with Deacon Jones or something, and were totally unprepared for the array of zone blitzes and line stunts that are standard repertoire for NFL defenses these days.

This year, they are incorporating a variant of the leveraged zone-blocking scheme used by Denver's o-line, one of the league's dirtiest. Anything's gotta be better than what they had last year, an ineffectual, demoralized sack of crap.

Two big draft surprises so far -- that Detroit had the balls to step up and take Johnson, after their notorious WR flameouts the last few years, and that Brady Quinn has already fallen this far. (As of this post, Houston has picked at #10, Quinn is still available, and San Francisco is not going to pick him. So best-case scenario as of now is that Buffalo might take him at #12, which is surprising considering that Quinn is probably as ready as anyone in this draft to start in a pro offense. In fact, if neither the Bills nor Rams (#13) take Quinn, he would probably fall to either Kansas City (#23) or Baltimore (#29), and then out of the first round altogether. Weird, wild stuff.)

[Update 4/29 10:15 AM PDT: Well, I was close on Quinn; Cleveland traded next year's 1st-round pick for Dallas' pick, swept in and got Quinn at #22, saving themselves millions from what they would have paid for him at #3. Nicely done.

As for the Raiders, when I saw that their 2nd-round pick was a tight end, a guy whose CV touts him as the next Todd Heap, I wondered what the hell they were smoking. After all, they picked up two free-agent TEs in the off-season, and they have respectable players in that position as it is. And their redesigned offense is going to be more of a 3WR set, meaning that the TE will mostly be used in jumbo formations, and primarily for blocking rather than pass-catching. And they passed on USC star WR Dwayne Jarrett (who new Raider coach Lane Kiffin worked with in college) to get this guy. So what the hell?

The Raiders dealt their second 4th-round pick to Detroit for backup QB Josh McCown (whom they briefly courted last year in the FA market) and WR Mike Williams, another USC product of Kiffin's who has underachieved thus far, but whom Kiffin apparently feels can be rehabilitated. Hopefully; Williams has great size and good hands, but is not terribly fast and has the rep of being a bad route-runner.

And they got rid of Randy Moss, to the Pats, for a measly 4th-round pick. It's a testament to just how much Kiffin felt he would not be able to work with Moss, who never balked from insistence on being traded. The Raiders held out as long as they could for a 2nd-round pick for Moss, but no one was ever going kick that down for a malcontent, albeit a tremendously talented one, who plays when he feels like it. Ah well, he's Belichick's headache now.]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Russian To Judgment

As tempting as it seemed initially to skewer Uncle Junior's slab of piffle, an unabashed tea-bagging of our good friend Poor Ol' Straight Talk (POST), I just don't have the stomach for it this round. Fortunately, like most other well-paid ungulates of the corporate media, his next attempt will no doubt be even more obtuse and less insightful.

So let's take a slightly different tack. I have always been fascinated by the country of Russia, its history, its language, its geography, its politics. And this week's death of the vodka-embalmed Boris Yeltsin was surprising only in that it hadn't happened ten years ago. But in skimming the requisite encomia from the usual suspects, it occured to me just how little of value had ever floated over the transom in the American media, when it came to getting past Yeltsin's cartoonish antics and digging into anything substantial. Mostly all we ever got about the guy, dead or alive, drunk or drunker, was this sort of boilerplate:

The man who brought down the Soviet Union from the inside was Boris Yeltsin. In the mid-1980s, he turned decisively against communism and, fully intending its destruction, performed one of history's great acts of liberation.

Yeltsin, who died this week, did this without turning to the guillotine. "For the first time in Russian history," notes Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov, "the new ruler did not eliminate the losers to consolidate control." What distinguished Yeltsin "was something that he did not do when he took power" -- "wipe out the other side."

Just because Russia is no longer communist does not mean it is now "liberated"; it simply means that a different mafiya family is running things, one which is a lot less reticent about their love for money and dominance.

Here is the sort of journalism you can get when the writer has actually lived in the country, knows its people and systems, and is not more concerned with couching his homilies in pseudo-liberation claptrap than actually calling people what they were:

Boris Yeltsin was always good for a laugh, which is probably why on the occasion of his death people outside of Russia are not calling him words like scum and monster, but instead recalling him fondly, with a smile, as one would a retarded nephew who could always be counted on to pull his pants down at Thanksgiving dinner.

Like most people who lived in Russia during the 1990s -- and Russia was my home throughout Yeltsin's entire reign as Russian president -- I have a wide variety of fond memories of the Motherland's drunken, bloblike train wreck of a revolutionary leader. My favorite came in 1995, at a press conference in Moscow, when a couple of American reporters perfectly captured the essence of Yeltsin by heckling him as he stumbled into the room. As he burst through the side entrance with that taillight-red face of his, hands wobbling in front of him in tactile search of the podium, the two hacks in the back called out: "Nor-r-r-r-r-r-m!" Such a perfect moment, I almost died laughing. Boris Nikolayevich, of course, was too wasted to hear the commotion at the back of the room.

Pretty sweet. And at first you figure, well, there's perhaps a sharper portait of the lovable lushsky we all thought we knew. But it gets ugly quick, and directly contradicts Chuckie K's assertions of Borya's "soft power" dedication to democracy.

The communist government found its leaders among the meanest and greediest of the children who survived and thrived in places like this. Boris Yeltsin was such a child. As a teenager he only knew two things; how to drink vodka and smash people in the face. At the very first opportunity he joined up with the communists who had liquidated his grandfather and persecuted his father and became a professional thief and face-smasher, rising quickly through the communist ranks to become a boss of the Sverdlovsk region, where he was again famous for two things: his heroic drinking and his keen political sense in looting and distributing the booty from Soviet highway and construction contracts. If Boris Yeltsin ever had a soul, it was not observable in his early biography. He sold out as soon as he could and was his whole life a human appendage of a rotting, corrupt state, a crook who would emerge even from the hottest bath still stinking of booze, concrete and sausage.


I still remember the way Lebed pronounced the word "rotting" -- gnilit -- scrunching up his smashed boxer's nose in moral disgust. He was shaken by the memory of just having been near Yeltsin. This from a hardened war veteran, a man who had coldly taken lives from Afghanistan to the Transdniester. The stink of Boris Yeltsin was the first thing capable of giving Alexander Lebed shell-shock.

Yeltsin outlived Lebed, a physically mighty man who could break rows of jaws with his fists but was chewed up and spit out like a sardine when he took on the Russian state. He likewise outlived the Petersburg Democrat Galina Starovoitova, the reporter Anna Politkovskaya, the muckraker Artyem Borovik, the Duma deputy Yuri Shekochikhin, the spy Alexander Litvinenko -- they were all too human in one way or another for today's Russia, and died of unnatural causes at young ages, but not Yeltsin. While all of those people were being murdered or dying in mysterious accidents, Yeltsin spent his golden years in an eerie state of half-preserved, perpetual almost-death.

Of course, some of these unfortunates, most notably Politkovskaya and Litvinenko, and probably Lebed as well, were killed by Yeltsin's successor, the famously good-souled Pooty-Poot, rather than Yeltsin himself. Yeltsin's skills were apparently much more profit-oriented, but by any means necessary.

Here's another line from the Yeltsin obit:

But Yeltsin was an inconsistent reformer who never took much interest in the mundane tasks of day-to-day government and nearly always blamed Russia's myriad problems on subordinates...

"Inconsistent reformer" is exactly the kind of language the American media typically used when describing Yeltsin during a period when he and his friends were robbing the Russian state like a gang of New Jersey truck hijackers.


What we were calling "reform" was just a thinly-veiled mass robbery that Yeltsin perpetrated with American help. The great delusion about Yeltsin was that he was a kind of Democrat and an opponent of communism. He was not. He was, like all politicians who grew up in that system, an opportunist. He read the writing on the wall and he threw his weight behind a "revolution" that turned out to be a brilliant ploy hatched by a canny group of generals and KGB types to privatize Soviet assets into the hands of the country's leaders, while simultaneously cutting the state free of its dreary obligations toward the rank-and-file Russian people.

The word "corruption" when applied to Boris Yeltsin had both specific and general applications. Specifically he personally stole and facilitated mass thefts at the hands of others from just about every orifice of the Russian state.

There's a lot more, very detailed, fascinsting stuff. The guy was, as Taibbi points out, essentially Tony Soprano with a bottomless bottle. And while some Russians have indeed been able to make a go of it in the post-communist era, most have not; the country and its immense resources are simply there for the plundering by the families at the top. Yeltsin enabled this, and Putin has crystallized that vision.

I don't agree with much of what Krauthammer has to say, obviously, but I wouldn't even blame his myopic obit on him. It's endemic to practically every mainstream commentator out there. It's just symptomatic of how we've always viewed and portrayed Russia, warily, as a fallen adversary whom we're just glad has the "right" ideology at long last. Factory workers literally getting paid in rancid bacon and rotten eggs is incidental -- at least it's not commie bacon and eggs.

But with its long history of insularity and internal brutality, its appalling life expectancy, demographic projections, and economic conditions, its truncated political and legal structure, and its immense arsenal of dangerous weapons, Russia can be problematic precisely because it's too big to fail.

After Yeltsin and Putin and whoever else gets their taste of the pot and retires in splendor, do the gangsters really running things simply allow the immense border to be surrounded with fractious, failed "seam states", while they continue to plunder from within? Or is possible anymore to nudge them in a more sustainable direction, to help them and help their neighbors -- and ultimately ourselves -- in the process?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

There Once Was A Putz From Nantucket

Digby's got Punkinhead's number:

Russert's insistence that he is just a "blue collar guy" is reminiscent of many of these millionaire news celebrities who like to play the part of some sort of middle American everyman (or everywoman)for their audience. Maureen Dowd is one of the worst, as well as the unctuous Cokie Roberts and the 1950's sit-com Dad wannabe, Chris Matthews. In fact, it is an extremely common trait among the DC courtiers. They truly seem to believe they are just regular guys --- and therefore, their concerns are the same as regular Americans. Only, you know, they aren't.

What sucks is that most of these big-media douchebags actually do seem to come from relatively middle-class upbringings. But they've been bought and sold, and co-opted. The men are clawing furiously for the middle as their paunches and pudges envelop them, the consequences of one too many appletinis with Bob Wright and Dean Broder. The women either try too hard to prove that they can be every bit as corrupt and useless as the men (e.g., Judy Miller), or revert to a permanent seventh-grade mentality, thinking their political column is either a second chance to do it all over again like a kewl kid, or a place to squawk about their man issues (MoDo).

It's just too bad we can't throw these bums out periodically, just to keep 'em on their toes. Because they suck. They're a bunch of self-absorbed poseurs, and they're not doing their goddamned jobs.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Going Postal

David Broder pulls the predictable false-comparison schtick that is part and parcel of the Serious Media's veneer of objectivity.

Here's a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats -- a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance.

If you answered " Harry Reid," give yourself an A. And join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to end.

Absolute nonsense, on several levels. First of all, Broder's base description of Gonzales -- that of a bumbling underling who just can't seem to get his durned story straight, is far more generous of a characterization than a lifelong toady like Gonzales deserves.

How about this: Gonzales is a liar, and a bad one, a painfully inept and obvious one. There is already plenty of circumstantial evidence indicating that the eight U.S. Attorneys were purged for blatant partisan purposes, and there would doubtless be much more corroborating evidence -- that is, if only the amiable doofuses in the DoJ and the White House hadn't "lost" 5 million e-mails, many of which were on a parallel e-mail system specifically designed to circumvent the Hatch Act. So we have several visible layers already of fairly clear intent to deceive, to obfuscate, and in Gonzales' case, to continue providing the unwavering one-way loyalty Bush has always expected of his lackeys.

Reid, on the other hand, has discovered a knack for lobbing verbal scuds which have rankled the seersucker suits of the serious thinkerati. He has realized that he is not working for Dean Broder nor Richard Dice Cohen, nor MoDo and her superficial high-school mean-girl bullshit. Reid is not craving their approval, nor awaiting the next tender touch from one of them at some cocktail-weenie suckfest, with or without Rich Little.

Is Reid perhaps being a bit impolitic, maybe even a bit contemptuous, of the administration's shenanigans? Hell, yes. If these aren't circumstances which call for such seriousness and clarity of purpose, then perhaps Broder can enlighten the class and let us all know just when it's okay for the opposition to oppose, without worrying about using the correct goddamned salad fork in the process.

This is the context of what Reid said, which sparked Uncle Junior Broder's idle, lame comparison:

"I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and -- you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows -- [know] this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid, D-Nevada.

He has stated, quite simply if perhaps clunkily, what he believes. Exactly how is this analogous to yet another scandalized chunk of this corrupt floater of an administration falling on his sword to protect his even more corrupt superiors, by lying through his teeth to the United States Senate? I can accept that many pragmatic-minded Democrats may find Reid's assertion somewhat cringeworthy, although factually correct. But "embarrassing"? Not likely, not from anyone who isn't just worried about political skin.

I hate to break it to Broder, but militarily this war is lost. It has been for some time, and the real nut of Reid's assertion is not that it's lost, it's that Bush's own military advisors tacitly understand that. How else can you explain Bush reading the Hamilton-Baker report, firing the generals who agreed with it, and installing people who would endorse his idea for One More Surge of indefinite length and scope? What the hell kind of way is that to run a railroad?

If Broder's employers ran their business the way Bush runs the country and shills for his empty ideas, Broder would be looking forward to a retirement pension of Monopoly money. Worse yet, he probably knows it, but it would be bad form to say so, apparently.

....Reid's verbal wanderings on the war in Iraq are consequential -- not just for his party and the Senate but for the more important question of what happens to U.S. policy in that violent country and to the men and women whose lives are at stake.

Bush's fatuous arguments are also consequential, as are Cheney's, and they and their minions have decided to play a monumental game of constitutional chicken with the people's duly elected agents of change. Reid has no obligation to endorse this destructive foolishness; indeed, his duty is to speak his mind on the subject, especially if it can save some lives in the long run.

The administration has been wrong about everything, every damned thing, in this war, catastrophically so. And now, three months into this surge that they just had to have, with no abatement of the level of violence, merely a dispersal, the major strategic initiative in Baghdad seems to be trying to sneak in a wall around the Sunni neighborhoods, apparently to make it that much easier for the Shi'a to seal them in and exterminate them the day after we finally depart this misbegotten venture.

Reid's main fault, in a dumbed-down political world bent on spotting shiny objects, is that he's a milquetoast orator and lackluster firebrand. Rhetoric of this sort needs someone who can step up and be a force of nature, compelling and tight with the narrative, ready with facts and questions and demands for an explanation.

I think these people owe us all an explanation, the media enablers included. I want an explanation from Bush on what precisely are the necessary metrics for achieving the stated goals, and how they plan to accomplish them with the current agenda of cheap shots eviscerating the Constitution. And I'd like Broder and his colleagues to explain why they keep letting these moral cretins get away with it, by spending more time crafting cheap, baseless equivalences than enumerating the myriad ways this administration has comprehensively failed at even basic governance.

[Update: Scott Horton at Harper's No Comment blog has compiled an extensive list of Broder's increasingly incompetent and factually weighted harrumphing. This one was my favorite:

Let me disclose my own bias in this matter. I like Karl Rove. In the days when he was operating from Austin, we had many long and rewarding conversations. I have eaten quail at his table and admired the splendid Hill Country landscape from the porch of the historic cabin Karl and his wife Darby found miles away and had carted to its present site on their land. (May 18, 2003)

Says it all. I know, I know, these weasels with their faux ecumenicism whinge about the unfairness of it all. "Can't we even dine with these people as friends and equals?", they loudly proclaim.

No. Clearly you can't handle the excitement; it makes you forget about the whole "afflicting the comfortable" part of your job. You have failed, and continue to fail, at comprehensive, honest, and insightful coverage. You have left it up to the vituperative bloggerses you scornfully dismiss, to do your job for you, over and over again. And we're never gonna let you forget it.]

Trenchant Commentary Trifecta

Looks like the Dorothy Parker of the "Hunh?" Set has scratched my satire itch yet again. It has everything I look for in political humor:

  1. Inventively witty

  2. Insight that speaks truth to power

  3. Initiates a strategic my pants!

Seriously, if there's a lingerie pillowfight with Dana Perino in the works, I may never leave the house again. They'll have to carry me out feet first.

Are You Smarter Than A Pantload?

Eventually one has to just figure that Goldberg is every bit as transparently un-self-aware as he appears to be:

HUGE NUMBERS of Americans don't know jack about their government or politics. According to a Pew Research Center survey released last week, 31% of Americans don't know who the vice president is, fewer than half are aware that Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, a mere 29% can identify "Scooter" Libby as the convicted former chief of staff of the vice president, and only 15% can name Harry Reid when asked who is the Senate majority leader.

Also last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe that Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales' firing of eight U.S. attorneys was "politically motivated."

I imagine that since then, what with Abu G's punch-drunk performance after rehearsing for close to month, those numbers are even higher. Even a slow fifth-grader understands the base premise that when someone sits there and fumbles with every question, answering 70+ times that he can't remember jack shit and the dog ate his e-mails, he's nothing more than a fucking liar. He's covering for his bosses. How complicated do you think it is?

Obviously, I'm certainly not above beating my fella 'merkins for their profound collective ignorance in many important areas. It is, as the French say, my raisin det-ree. But this is positively disingenuous considering that, were it not for ignorant yahooism, everybody in this administration and every buffoon defending it -- and yes, this includes you, Jonah -- would be out looking for honest work.

More to the point, Americans — God bless 'em — are often quite ignorant about the stuff politicians and pundits think matters most. They may know piles about their own professions, hobbies and personal interests, but when it comes to basic civics, they just get their clocks cleaned on Fox's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

Though examples are depressingly unnecessary, here are two of my favorites over the years. In 1987, 45% of adult respondents to one survey answered that the phrase "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" was in the Constitution (in fact, it's a quote from Karl Marx). Then, in 1991, an American Bar Assn. study reported that a third of Americans did not know what the Bill of Rights was.

I agree. It's pathetic. It's inexcusable. And it's of a piece -- Americans, more than any other industrialized country by far, love to proclaim how godly they are, how important their faith is, how much they go to church, blah blah blah.

And yet?

Half the people in the Christian nation cannot name even one of the four Gospels. (And yet, I, a godless heathen atheist sybarite, know all four, and even have some surface knowledge of each. What the hell is up with that?) 10% of Americans (these people must be mentally disabled) think that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Then there's that asshole congresstwit from Georgia who pushed his Ten Commandments stunt legislation, but could barely name three himself (he, of course, used that as a reason why the legislation was so vital to the continuation of our free and open society).

In case you're wondering, I got 10 out of 10 on the linked quiz, pretty easily at that. I don't consider myself all that knowledgeable about religion; it's just an easy quiz. (And I note for the record that they misspelled "penance" at the end.) But anyway, I can't help but wonder what all these morally superior souls are doing at church if they're not learning anything. Merely hedging their celestial bets, maybe? I think so, and it makes sense if you view that mindset as a complementary, even symbiotic view with the typical half-witted road-rage politico. They let Rush Limbaugh turn their brains to oatmeal, and maybe a few names stick through osmosis, but that's about it.

And that's what we know as our "values voters", folks. Seriously. Only a completely ignorant, inept thinker would place non-issues such as gay marriage even in the top 100 things this country needs to address politically. It's a very sloppy, incompetent excuse for thought -- the same sort of mouth-breather who doesn't know what the Bill of Rights is. But the people who know about Abu Gonzales' little dog-and-pony show are not the brainless wretches who don't have enough goddamned pride in themselves and their country to learn even the basics of how it operates. Pantload is conflating spurious statistics and he damned well knows it.

Think it's sheer coincidence that the number of people who hadn't a clue about the Bill of Rights is roughly equal to George W. Bush's average approval rating for the last 18 months?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shorter George McGovern

"Dick Cheney is a coward who plays games with other peoples' lives, and couldn't carry my jockstrap."

In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.

Plenty more where that came from, and these guys have it coming. Who knows, someday the Matt Cooper wing of the Cocktail Weenie Brigade might take a break from anonymously quoting them long enough to report on them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stockholm Syndrome

Watching The Daily Show earlier this evening, as Jon Stewart tried to penetrate the carapace of Matt Cooper's self-serving defenses, I kept thinking how the Plame case -- and Cooper's own involvement in it -- encapsulates so thoroughly how we got into this mess. It's been gone over before, obviously, ad nauseam, but it bears reiteration from time to time.

Just as an observation, it occurs to me that while Stewart has become a sharper, more well-rounded interviewer over the years, his one weakness is his strength as a host -- he seems like a genuinely nice guy. He doesn't want to attack his guests and get all Falafel Factor on them, even when they richly deserve it, as Cooper does. And when you have a smug prick like Cooper for a guest, posturing as a First Amendment hero for all he's worth, perhaps a modicum of pointed (if polite) aggression is called for.

Instead, Stewart tried to leaven his initial pursuit of Cooper's own (and the media's overall) enabling of anonymous douchebags habitually using the corporate media as their personal stenographers to transcribe talking points for them -- instead of, say, reporting -- by lamely using the recent mau-mauing of Don Imus as some sort of analogy. The two are not analogous, not at all. Imus was simply the meat thrown in the tank for a periodic feeding frenzy, something to give the veneer of absolution, so that we can tell ourselves how we Did The Right Thing, and then turn right around and find another discount Archie Bunker on the radio or TV.

A much more appropriate comparison would be the WHCD, the boozy, schmoozy circle-jerk over the weekend, featuring a disastrous performance from a puling Rich Little. Jesus, Little even took pains to preface his set by pre-emptively declaring himself not a political satirist, and damned if he wasn't understating the case. This is an increasingly irrelevant ritual involving increasingly irrelevant entities -- co-opted stenographers playing grab-ass with the people they are supposed to be covering aggressively and objectively.

But they hardly bother with the pretense of such things anymore, and the WHCD exemplifies that much more than it symbolizes two worthy adversaries taking a day off to play nice together. It's pathetic; the highlight was Karl Rove -- a guest of the New York Times table, mind you -- getting into it with Sheryl Crow and Laurie David. Does anyone from the Times bother to report anything that Rove might have said at the table afterward, since they apparently beat off at the prospect of printing anonymously sourced quotes? Of course not, but they're more than happy to transcribe an anonymous (naturally) Rove defender, as well as the requisite official talking point from a White House spokesperson. As with Colbert's gaucherie, the Crow-Rove hoo-ha was deemed in bad form, as if one of these fucktards had dropped his cucumber-and-watercress sandwich onto his Edith Wharton novel.

Hell, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Cooper was there as well, pretending to laugh at Rich Little's pathetic trip in the wayback machine and soaking the remaindered strips of his own compromised soul at the open bar. You fool no one, pal, least of all yourself.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wolfie Pack

Is that a comb in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Jeez, he's not as sly as he thinks he is; he might as well just look straight at her tits. If you like the tux, you should see his socks, honey.

[Photo via Talking Points Memo.]

Club Inbred

Nice to see that this year's circle-jerk, minus Stephen Colbert, was every bit as edifying as it is every other year:

President George Bush’s choice not to make jokes, and comedian Rich Little’s somewhat poor attempt to make them, resulted in an unusual White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner Saturday as celebrities and politicians mixed, mingled and dined.

One highlight: singer Sheryl Crow, on a cross-country global warming awareness trip, got into it with Karl Rove. Jawing like a baseball manager and an umpire arguing a call, Crow and Rove were disagreeing over global warming, with Crow’s pal, Laurie David, offering support.

Approached afterward about the exchange, Rove said he was enjoying it all, “if I can get to my meal.”


Just a few feet from the podium, Rove was found at The New York Times table, in discussions with the likes of D.C. Bureau Chief Dean Baquet and columnist Maureen Dowd. When asked why the paper, which often battles the White House, chose to invite Rove, Dowd said, “I don’t do the inviting anymore.”

Uh-huh, because MoDo's so above it all, she would have invited somebody meaningful, or at least not evil, right?

Yeah, right.

As we've griped far too many times, your pundits and commentators simply refuse to acknowledge their own role in shaping public perceptions of politicians. Case in point: Maureen Dowd, who devotes an entire column today to John Edwards' hair.

Noting that Edwards' $400 haircut is yet another sign of the alleged tendency of Dem male candidates to act like wussies (a storyline she's done as much as anyone else to create), Dowd writes:

John Kerry sank himself by windsurfing in spandex and ordering a cheese steak in Philly with Swiss instead of Cheez Whiz.

Fine. I want to know how much Muff Romney's haircuts cost, then. I want to know what Mrs. Doubtfire Rudy Giuliani's makeover budget is. I think we deserve to know what Fred Thompson's Viagra budget is. Hell, let's find out how much Maureen Dowd spends on her hair.

I say there's no limit to how superficial and inane the coverage can get, led by the brave ass-spelunking of our nation's finest Serious Media Commentators. Really, why bother discussing what Edwards' actual positions are, when we can smugly point and repeat the "Breck Girl" refrain passed on to Rush Limbaugh three years ago from "anonymous White House staffers".

And all so they can play grab-ass once a year with the people they cover, not to mention Teri Hatcher and Valerie Bertinelli. Is it any wonder we end up with such scintillating choices every four years, with useless schmoozers like these dictating the narrative?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bush Comes To Shovel

This is what happens Fredo tries to wing it, brain squirming like a toad, as the song says, just a blithering mess of non-sequiturs and mangled syntax. I know, we're just shocked.

Some highlights:

_"Politics comes and goes, but your principles don't. And everybody wants to be loved — not everybody. ... You never heard anybody say, `I want to be despised, I'm running for office.'"

_"The best thing about my family is my wife. She is a great first lady. I know that sounds not very objective, but that's how I feel. And she's also patient. Putting up with me requires a lot of patience."

_"There are jobs Americans aren't doing. ... If you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about."

_"There are some similarities, of course" between Iraq and Vietnam. "Death is terrible."

_"I've been in politics long enough to know that polls just go poof at times."

As he has before, Bush told the story about how his first presidential decision was to pick a rug for the Oval Office, a task he quickly cast to his wife. He told her to make sure the rug reflected optimism "because you can't make decisions unless you're optimistic that the decisions you make will lead to a better tomorrow."

Later, when he talked about his hope for succeeding in Iraq, Bush said, "Remember the rug?"

"Remember the rug?". If anything aptly sums up the incompetent, incoherent, mendacious nonsense that has passed for policy with this gang, that single phrase does, in all its helpless vacuity.

Special Family Fun Bonus: Joe Klein tries to get in on the fun, and is immediately ripped a new one by roughly 90% of his commenters, one of whom was kind enough to post a few snippets of Klein's previous wisdom:

Thanks for the memories, Joe.

- - - - -
Al Gore:
"a smug, stubborn, and aloof human being"
"harsh and stupid"
"Gore's populism reeked of resentment and neurosis"
"looked like a madman"

- - - - -
John Kerry:
effete, awkward, aristocratic, Frenchy jerk

- - - - -
Newt Gingrich:
"an intellectually honest policy wonk"

"It's almost always a joy listening to Gingrich when he's on a tear."

"I don't want to say Gingrich has mellowed--the staccato feistiness is still there"

- - - - -
John McCain:
"the avatar of a new passage in American politics"

- - - - -
Rudy Giuliani:
"reduced crime rates in the 1990s."

As many of them point out, it's ridiculous for Klein -- or anyone -- to refer to Bush's performance (on softball questions, no less) as "unbelievable". It's entirely believable; have you not heard this person try to speak extemporaneously before? That's what so sad about it -- it's completely consistent with what Bush has done all along, bumbling and rambling, finding new and innovative ways to fuck up the same boilerplate he's been thrilling these mouth-breathers with for years now.

"Unbelievable". Sorry Joe, I don't think that word means what you think it means.

Whatever And Ever, Amen

Imaginary land now declared un-imagined:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church has effectively buried the concept of limbo, the place where centuries of tradition and teaching held that babies who die without baptism went.

In a long-awaited document, the Church's International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an "unduly restrictive view of salvation," according to the U.S.-based Catholic News Service, which obtained a copy on Friday.

The thumbs-down verdict on limbo had been expected for years and the document, called "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised," was seen as most likely to be final since limbo was never formally part of Church doctrine.

I really don't get this goofy shit, sorry. Let me get this straight -- this document, which effectively repudiates something which "was never formally part of Church doctrine" in the first place, was "long-awaited"? By whom, exactly? Intellectual self-flagellators who spend their entire lives chasing their tails over bits of informal doctrine? Wouldn't medication be cheaper, quicker, and more effective?

In writings before his election as Pope in 2005, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger made it clear he believed the concept of limbo should be abandoned because it was "only a theological hypothesis" and "never a defined truth of faith."

Wow. Talk about your divine tautologies. It's all theological hypotheses, and the severe logical and definitional contradictions of the phrase "truth of faith" make me want to reach for a bottle of anything.

I'm glad they finally got this pressing non-issue off their plates. So these souls who had been, for 2000 years, falsely consigned to this now-imaginary place -- do they now retroactively inhabit another imaginary place, or are they grandfathered in, or what? I believe there may be property issues and rights of transference to be addressed by the Vatican's legal department.

Imagine the protests from beyond: "I was mistakenly stuck in limbo for two millennia when I was s'posed to be in purgatory!". I mean, does it count as time served or what? And if limbo does not exist, then it never existed, right? And if it never existed, where were all those souls all this time? You see the epistemological dilemma they're faced with here.

I think there's another long-awaited document in the offing.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Culture Vultures

Matt Lewis ponders the eternal question:

Had they happened months apart, the Imus incident -- and the VA Tech massacre -- both would have had the potential to reignite the debate over video games, music and lyrics. Combined, the debate is inevitable.

No, it's highly, uh, "evitable" actually. It's not coincidental that Lewis purports to be musing about success in the mainstream pop culture, while pairing that last word up with -- what else? -- "war". And the reason "liberals" appear to keep "winning" this "culture war" is actually because you guys are the only ones fighting it, and it's paradoxically hard to win a war on straw.

Let's start by unpacking that first paragraph, because its basic premise is suffocatingly inept. The Imus "debate" seemed to me at its very core to serve as a lame attempt to inoculate several types of people -- the spectator/viewer/listener type, who suddenly had to actually think about their entertainment choices, if only to affirm them; the pundit class, who, whether or not they knew Imus or ever appeared on his show, reflexively have to act like they know or care what's happening; and the inner party weasels who had to make whatever shuck-and-jive excuses for glad-handing Imus after one of his third-rate Archie Bunkerisms. And everyone's in on the same game, except, for once, Imus himself, who seemed genuinely blindsided by the wave of opportunistic rhetoric, again designed to inoculate the commentators from Imus' loose-cannon brand of putative race-baiting and minstrelsy.

The minstrelsy part is especially disingenuous for people to retreat from, since many, many people (including yours truly) engage in winking meta-wigga-isms all the time, without having it mean anything more than its face value, which people either find momentarily funny or they don't. I don't really care to either defend or attack Imus, and for the purpose of this argument, it's essentially irrelevant.

The point is that I think people on all sides of this can agree that most, if not all, of the pearl-clutching of this "debate" was shamelessly contrived, and as such, renders it largely moot to any genuinely meaningful discussion of issues of race. Probably the most eventful part of that whole incident is that Jon Corzine nearly got killed racing to a feel-good reconciliation meeting between Imus and the players he insulted. Rule #1 of photo-ops: don't get in a wreck on the way to the photo-op. It's never worth it.

The second issue Lewis addresses in terms of "culture" -- naturally, the Virginia Tech massacre -- is going to be a real headache for some time to come, in terms of sheer intellectual dishonesty. The incident has already provided the usual suspects with seemingly ideal fodder to trot out their usual tired-ass theories about why we're Going To Hell In A Handbasket. I actually agree that there's something unsettling about a culture that flocks to thinly-disguised snuff films for entertainment. I agree that the scope and scale of conditioned desensitization to very realistically portrayed violence is substantial.

But they are drawing the wrong conclusions from this; they seem to think that we would have fewer spree-killings if only people didn't watch so many Saw knockoffs. It doesn't occur to them that perhaps they have the wrong end of the stick here -- that the entertainment industry, first and foremost, is about making a buck, and what makes a buck is spectacle, upping the ante. And since our true cultural hang-ups are with sex and nudity first, then language, and then finally violence, it's only natural for the spectacle-minded film-maker to head for the path of least resistance. They can get away with showing someone losing an eye or getting a finger lopped off; getting a blowjob, not so much. I'm thinking this may be a more disturbing cultural indicator than the warriors are willing to cop to.

The real drawback to the cultural-nihilism argument over Cho Seung Hui, or the supposedly cow-like placidity with which his fellow students tolerantly accepted his seething psychoses (which is a completely false assumption, not that they'll cop to that either), is that it's useless. The argument has no practical utility, no idea for a solution, even if you accept it on its own terms. It's just a plaint, a whinge against an empty shell of an exploitative, celebrity-besotted culture.

The worst part about American culture is not its propensity for violence so much as its love of stupidity, of no longer even bothering with the pretense of real effort before just slapping any old piece of crap in front of millions of pairs of eyes conditioned to simply accept things as they are. If a network started a reality show tomorrow that showed nothing but random idiots sorting their sock drawers, what would happen? Somebody would watch it, sure as shit, and so you would then have to have the requisite promo campaigns, the entertainment show and magazine profiles of breakout sock-drawer "stars", etc., etc.

There's a whole industry built around this shit, and it's engineered to promote and distribute the most trivial nonsense imaginable. The only limit is not one of taste or quality, but merely what can be gotten away with, and if that means you watching Paris Hilton watching paint dry, well, there are literally thousands of people whose careers revolve around talking you into doing that very thing, just for the opportunity to sell you hemorrhoid cremes and allergy pills and oversized fuck-you-mobiles in between content segments.

This goes hand-in-hand with the political conditioning of reflexive suspicion of intelligence. John Kerry speaks French; he must be up to something. It goes on and on, obviously.

And that, to come full circle, is what Lewis and his fellow would-be culture warriors really don't seem to get. It should be a huge clue that the leading "culture warrior" is a notoriously thin-skinned blowhard who is perhaps most famous for sexually harassing employees with a loofah. There is no culture war, fellas; you guys are simply the media version of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, dressing up in your Civil War replica uniforms every couple weeks to go on down to the park and stab each other with plastic bayonets. It's not real; people are in the entertainment industry to pick your pocket, not turn your children into psychos, or (God forbid) queer.

And the reason they fail at figuring even that much out is that they are stubbornly political first, last, and always, instead of just finding something truly original and insightful and crafting something out of it. But since they're less worried about creating good art than effective propaganda, they're always going to be left stuck wondering what the deal is.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Da Abu G

You know, Doug Feith has reigned supreme in the minds of most people as the long-running Dumbest Motherfucking Guy On The Face Of The Planet. But it may be time to crown a new king.

Doug Feith, meet Alberto Gonzales.

Everyone but the attorney general also seems to recognize that the time for half-formed, one-sentence justifications for the firings of eight U.S. attorneys is long past. If David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney of New Mexico, was really fired for any reason other than party politics, today was the day to disprove that. Gonzales didn't. In fact, he claims that the burden of proof is on the committee to prove he's done something wrong. Even Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., opines that some of his reasons sounded "made up." But he comes armed with no files, e-mails, lists, or charts to back up his claims that these firings were warranted.

I mean, Jeebus, when a drawling crash-test dummy like Huckleberry Graham knows you're full of shit, you're caught, son. And this is after Gonzales had a good two weeks to rehearse his story. Pathetic. I think the last time I saw this ham-fisted of an attempt to get one's shit straight was on a classic Simpsons episode:

Agent: Tell you what, sir. From now on, you'll be, uh, Homer Thompson at Terror Lake. Let's just practise a bit, hmm? When I say, "Hello, Mr. Thompson," you'll say, "Hi."

Homer: Check.

Agent: Hello, Mr. Thompson.

Homer: [stares blankly]

Agent: Remember now, your name is Homer Thompson.

Homer: I gotcha.

Agent: Hello, Mr. Thompson.

Homer: [stares blankly]

[A long time later]

Agent: [sighs in frustration] Now, when I say, "Hello, Mr. Thompson," and press down on your foot, you smile and nod.

Homer: No problem.

Agent: Hello, Mr. Thompson! [stomps on Homer's foot a few times]

Homer: [stares blankly]
[to other agent] I think he's talking to _you_.

Of course, there's no fuck-up too big to be totally out of La Cosa Fredo, especially when you're a dead-end loyalist. I'm sure Abu G will fall on his sword late tomorrow afternoon to beat the news cycle (which is caught up in psychoanalyzing Cho Seung Hui anyway), his name will go on the short list for that day when John Paul Stevens makes the mistake of eating Ann Coulter's creme brulée, and in the meantime, he'll be replaced at the DoJ by a head of lettuce on a broomstick, and no one will notice any difference. Hell, there may even be a Medal O' Freedomocracy™ in his stocking this Christmas.


What They Stand For

Just doing a little random surfing, and came across a friendly reminder from the past of who the leading conservatard lights were and are:

"These are the same chicken hawks who vote against defense all the time," House majority whip (and de facto speaker) Tom "the Hammer" DeLay said last week about the Democrats who support air strikes in Yugoslavia. "Not only is their president getting us in a mess, but he's undermining our military." DeLay's fervid rhetoric carried the day; even though his protégé, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, voted to support the air strikes, the House vote ended in a 213-213 tie, which of course meant that it had withheld support for the air strikes.

This was, of course, the same mighty bug-hunter who shirked his own duty because of reverse discrimination. Like the cockroaches he used to exterminate, DeLay seems tough to get rid of once and for all. Thankfully he's got Cousin Eddie Russert and friends to give him occasional teevee appearances, even still. Can't imagine what would happen if they suddenly got decency standards.

Smell The Unity, Suckas

Got your dream ticket yet? I'm torn between two, either of which would bring the nation together for four years of love and healing.

That would be Barbara Boxer, and yes, that's Joe Gibbs the football coach (he's listed under "other", along with Shaquille O'Neal and Martin Sheen, not to mention Ralph "Touch of Evil" Nader).

That would be George "Felix Macacawitz Jr." Allen, proving that all it takes to make us whole again is one of each. Species, that is.

Welcome To Reality

Shorter David Broder:

Say, you know there's portable phones now that can take yer pitcher and put it on the internets? Where the hell are the flyin' cars?

Seriously, the guy seems to get all his information by reading his own paper, schmoozing with politicians, and mercilessly spanking his monkey over intemperate bloggerses. Must be a pretty sweet gig. Hopefully Grampa Simpson is going to start picking his fights a bit more sensibly now, but we'll see. He may just be having a Maalox moment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Church Of Tautology

Shorter Jeff Jacoby:

Without religion selective interpretations of ancient books chronicling impossible deeds and frequently contradictory ideas, how would we know whom to feel morally superior to?

Last Throe Update

Let's Give Preznit Pissypants' Surge Just One More Friedman Unit Edition:

Four large bombs exploded in mostly Shiite areas of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 178 people and wounding scores - the deadliest day in the city since the start of the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital two months ago.


In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in central Baghdad, killing at least 122 people and wounding 148, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.


Among the dead were several construction workers who had been rebuilding the mostly Shiite marketplace after a bombing destroyed many shops and killed 137 people there in February, the police official said.

And then there's this:

Police in Ramadi uncovered 17 decomposing corpses buried beneath two schoolyards in a district that until recently was under the control of al-Qaida fighters. At least 85 people were killed or found dead across the country Tuesday.


Thousands of young Sunni men have joined the police force in Anbar province and have taken up the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq, the umbrella organization that includes al-Qaida.

In a sign that Shiite death squads are on the move again after more than two months of quiescence, 25 bodies, most tortured, were found dumped in Baghdad on Tuesday. Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his six Cabinet ministers Monday to quit the government.

In addition to the deaths in Baghdad and Ramadi, officials reported at least 42 other people were killed or found dead across Iraq Tuesday in nearly two dozen other violent incidents at sites that included Mosul, Fallujah, Baqouba and Tal Afar.

Yes, six more months of this and everything should be all squared away.

Any more fucking bright ideas?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guns 'n' Bozos: Appetite For Deschmucktion

Upon hearing of yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech, all I thought about the subject was how unimaginably horrible it must be for the students and their families. I certainly couldn't have thought of anything to say; any sentiments would fall well short of the mark.

But that's me, I guess; as Roy and TBogg ably chronicle, there's never any shortage of moral (not to mention mental) cretins who can't even wait until the bodies are counted to start propounding their obnoxious, ghoulish theories.

It was a dry run for a terrorist attack; it's an argument for everyone to carry concealed weapons; it's (most revoltingly) God showing how much He loves us; it's an opportunity for the "lie-beral media" (get it?) to conceal the killer's true Islamojihadi identity; it demonstrates the urgent need for us to become even more of a nation of finks and drop a dime on every weirdo we see or think we see; etc., etc.

Maybe -- and here I am perhaps going out on an epistemological limb -- but maybe this was just another crazy asshole with a gun and too many emotional problems. I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but this seems fairly simple to diagnose. There are 300 million people in this country; the law of averages necessitates that many of them are potentially dangerous, and emotionally volatile. And in a country -- and, in the case of Virginia, a state -- that is resolute about having and providing easy access to firearms, people and politicians seem to think that this sort of thing is the cost of doing business.

I am not being snarky about that; I am a big believer in the Second Amendment, but let's recognize these things for what they are. If you don't want background checks, and you don't want waiting periods, and you do want Cletus to be able to sell anything he wants to anyone he wants out of the trunk of his Buick without The Man looking over his shoulder, then these awful incidents are bound to occur from time to time. It's not that complicated.

Except apparently it is, because it's given a swath of troglodytes just cause to recklessly speculate about anything and everything, propose jive-ass "solutions" that directly contradict their self-righteous loathing of all things big-gubmint, and generally get their usual two minutes of hate on. Everybody's a genius in retrospect, pointing out the violence and misanthropy in the plays Cho wrote for his classes. And? What sort of mechanism do you propose to deal with this sort of thing? How about a "Violent Plays" unit that sifts content and busts offenders? That sounds like a splendid idea that couldn't possibly fail, especially with the current crew of ass-scratching nitwits in the executive branch.

It's natural, when one is wringing their hands in the aftermath of a tragedy like this, to wonder what could have been done to prevent it. Well, lots of things could have been done. But all of them require government funding, and government interference, and idiot bureaucrats that every one of these sanctimonious mooks usually professes to hate, stepping on a variety of toes, some perhaps potentially guilty, most of them likely not.

Ordinarily, human decency would have once required people to at least wait until the bodies were cold and actual information was known before launching into moronic theories and diatribes and transparent psychological projection. Maybe that was just a quaint bullshit notion our grandparents bamboozled us with when we were little.

[Update: Turns out, rather inconveniently for our poorly prognosticating brethren who are deeply pondering the reckless tolerance for weirdos on college campuses, that Cho in fact had been red-flagged -- repeatedly -- by students and faculty alike as a seething angry-loner type with a troublesome proclivity toward gratuitous violence in his writing assignments. All attempts to mobilize the Thought Police failed, sadly, though Cho's poetry professor threatened to quit if he wasn't removed from her class, after many other students simply stopped showing up.

Also, um, Cho had been warned by the court about his stalking behavior and committed to an outpatient psychiatric facility. Strangely, none of this came up either time when Cho went to purchase his guns, a month apart. Could this be part of the problem here, that the only place Cho was really under the radar was at the gun shop? Talk about an inconvenient truth. Not as much fun as giving the overly-tolerant college pussies the ol' what-for, but facts are seldom as much fun as wild speculation.]

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Prison Dogs

Here's something kind of strange going on in the Golden State.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has quietly built a new execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, prompting angry lawmakers who learned about the construction just this week to accuse the governor of hiding the project from the Legislature and the public.

Prison officials began construction in January after concluding it would cost $399,000 -- just under the $400,000 that would have required legislative approval, according to an administration document obtained Friday by The Chronicle.

The new death chamber is being finished as the state's use of capital punishment is under review by a federal court, and lawmakers have yet to authorize a larger construction project to revamp the prison's entire Death Row.

I've made it pretty clear over the years that I personally have no problem with capital punishment in principle, though clearly the process is highly flawed, and as such should be revised or at least reviewed. But this is more of a piece with Schwarzenegger's prison politics in general -- a tight clampdown on prisoners communicating with reporters, primarily, but clearly this further demonstrates a preference for secrecy and autocracy in managing the California prison system, one of the world's largest.

"To sneak a project like this through is just outrageous,'' said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, whose Marin County district includes San Quentin. "We will find out what kind of creative accounting they've done.''

Jim Tilton, Schwarzenegger's secretary for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said he had a good reason for not informing lawmakers -- he was unaware of the project.


Huffman said he was particularly angry because he recently held a meeting with Tilton about a proposal to rebuild the Death Row at San Quentin, and Tilton did not mention the new execution chamber.

Tilton said Friday that he had not been aware during his meeting with Huffman that a new chamber was being built.

Please. Capital punishment has always been an especially polarizing issue here, and particularly so since Michael Morales managed to get a last-minute reprieve last year, and death chamber anesthesiologists refused to participate in lethal injections. Anything to do with death row -- particularly the death chamber itself -- is going to be red-flagged for the guy in charge of all correction facilities and improvements. This is about as lame as the "MC Rove ate my homework" shuck-and-jive the DoJ and White House are pulling right now.

The question here is, why? The prison guards' union is politically powerful in this state, but they don't seem to have a hand in this. And again, the issue is essentially a 50-50 split here; it's not so disproportionately unpopular that the project would get squashed for political expediency, especially in the middle of literally hundreds of millions -- probably billions by the time it's all said and done -- of dollars of proposed renovations to an extremely overcrowded system.

If I had to make a guess -- and it appears that I do -- I would assume that Schwarzenegger simply decided to bypass the usual process of negotiations and concessions with the Democratic State Senate. He doesn't want to owe any favors to Don Perata and the rest of them, which is understandable, but not acceptable. Just like these lame-ass excuses.

Save The Pantload, Save The World

So apparently DoughBob™, in a sudden burst of creativity from one of his brain-surgeon readers, has gotten around to diagnosing the constant critiques from we lefties as much the same syndrome afflicting those nasty souls who keep nitpicking the flawless judgment and stellar statesmanship of Dear Leader.

Yes, the people who pick on poor Pantload are, let's face it, "deranged". It couldn't possibly be that Goldberg, like his wampeter, is simply a sloppy, incompetent thinker punching way above his weight in a big boys' game, that since some folks actually read and pay attention instead of trading bon mots with professional doofuses like Party of Death Pornmumu, we actually know what the hell we're talking about. And we don't even get paid for it! Imagine that.

I suppose Goldberg, a loyal ungulate if ever there was one, should be expected to huddle in for warmth in tough times, rather than stick his neck out and actually observe something other than his navel. And the defender he thanks has somewhat reasonable points to make, yet misses the forest for the one tree he fixates on.

The problem is not that Goldberg makes mediocre cultural arguments against universal health care. Hell, we pretty much expect that from him any given day. Americans are culturally less well-suited to big-gubmint programs than are Europeans. Well, no shit, Sherlock. But those tiresome delusions of rugged self-sufficiency, while endearing, are unsustainable. Would that it were not so, but it is, primarily because of waste and excess across the board.

But the point that the pro-argument was making was in using the Euro systems as examples of something that works, and is not in thrall to insurance companies and Big Pharma. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? With one in every six or seven Americans uninsured, and health care costs catastrophically high for no good reason, maybe it's time to hear some constructive ideas and options.

But Goldberg does not give the ideas any credence nor even consideration; he merely dismisses them with a flabby wave of predictable frog-baiting. He's got his, so the rest of you can suck on it or just go get better jobs already. Okay, so why exactly are we not supposed to pick on this shit and tear it down straightaway? It's deserving of -- begging for -- scorn and ridicule. It is a comfy exurban cubicle-rat posturing as a redneck by trashing ideas before they're even tried, on cultural grounds.

Culture changes all the time. Do I even need to say it? Apparently I do. Culture is a function of people's lifestyles and habits, just as language is, and as such, it evolves, it adapts. Wistful fantasies of middle kingdom exceptionalism aside, perhaps if people are presented a choice between: 1)paying hundreds of dollars for the simplest of treatments or a month's worth of private insurance, just so the shareholders' stock price upticks a quarter-point, or 2)getting decent health care at a reasonable price without getting hosed by rapacious HMO corporations, they might make that choice. They might trade off on what Goldberg thinks is a die-cast cultural trope. I think many won't, simply because they let people like Goldberg get their dander up with reflexive nationalist clichés. They tell themselves they're making it with their rugged individualism just hunky-dory, forgetting that chances are they count on friends and family for all sorts of shit.

But again, it's not just about this one silly frog-baiting article of Goldberg's masquerading as something useful in terms of either a culture debate or a health-care debate. It's about a well-established pattern of this type of nonsense. It's about a guy who picks fights with people who are a lot smarter than him, who are genuinely knowledgeable about complicated issues and have standing in their fields of expertise, and then retreats behind a bunch of smug weasel words when he's called on his bullshit.

It's about his bad habit of practically starting posts with the admission that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, lamely guessing, and then blegging readers to help him out. What the hell are they paying you for, pal? There are thousands of people out there who write circles around you for free.

It's about a smartass who flogs a still-unwritten book, whose cover depicts a smiley-face with a Hitler mustache, and whose title imputes that there is a clear connection between Hillary Clinton and Benito Mussolini. And whose author smugly declares that the book, whenever he gets around to actually writing the motherfucker, will be a paragon of careful reason and thoughtful argumentation. As if you couldn't tell from the title and the cover art.

Obviously, I enjoy genuine polemic and political satire, and Goldberg might even have the pop-culture chops to pull something like that off, if he actually wanted to. He could go in a more P.J. O'Rourke direction and at least maybe find the funny somewhere (though O'Rourke is sounding more and more like Dennis Miller these days, which is just sad). But as Pornmumu found out the hard way when Jon Stewart tore him a new one, if you write one of these stupid winger welfare books and then come out preening about what a thoughtful discursion it really is, it's clear that you're nothing but a rented jerkoff. And there is no indication that Goldberg's book -- again, if he ever finishes (or even starts) the damned thing -- will be any different.

I love it. This guy constantly snipes and defames people who disagree with his clownish assessments of serious issues, and then he wonders and whines about why we get fucking bent about it. I don't like being told I'm a fascist from the party of death, Chief, not even as some sort of smirky jokey-joke; that good enough for ya? But we accept that political discourse is nothing more than Calvinball with words, so we roll with it. And we respond in kind, or maybe even up the ante if we're feeling strong. And if you don't have a thick enough hide, Chief, then either grow one or sit down and shut the fuck up.

Look, as rent-a-hacks go, Goldberg is actually one of the more benign ones. I'll take a dozen of him over a Coulter or a Limbaugh any day of the week. But ultimately that is a matter of tone and degree; Goldberg simply has enough sense to realize that there's no upside for him to call John Edwards a faggot, whereas such mouth-breathing schtick is where Coulter and Limbaugh's respective bread gets buttered (ewww). Goldberg might at worst be more passive-aggressive about it and lob a "Breck girl" scud at Edwards.

In the end, the intellectual vacuity is essentially the same though, and they are certainly all serving the same masters. But I'll at least give Goldberg credit for having some notion as to where some boundaries lie, that it's fucked up to, say, mock Michael J. Fox to make a cheap political point. Still, he's as intellectually bankrupt as the rest of this modern strain of fake conservatives.

As a final example of just how poorly-reasoned Goldberg's arguments tend to be, just read his latest column, in which he implores fellow conservaschmucks not to forget about Poor Ol' Straight Talk (aka POST), he of the infamous Baghdad mallwalk with BFF Huckleberry "Ah got fahve ruhgs for fahve buhcks!" Graham.

McCain's been a consistent pro-lifer (which distinguishes him from pretty much everyone else in the race so far). Until recently, Giuliani argued passionately for partial-birth abortion as a constitutional right. McCain has voted to confirm every conservative Supreme Court nominee, including Robert Bork. He voted "guilty" in Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. He campaigned for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, even after Bush beat him. Giuliani says he was ideologically simpatico with Clinton, and he endorsed Democrat Mario Cuomo for governor of New York.

My point isn't merely to make invidious comparisons between McCain and Giuliani (heck, to liberals they're not invidious at all). I'm actually a fan of Giuliani, and I think the GOP and the country could do worse in a president and Republican standard-bearer. But the double standard on the right seems more than a little self-indulgent.

I thought self-indulgence was the Randian conservatives' calling least for themselves. When libruls are self-indulgent, they're hedonistic sybarites living beyond their means on someone else's money, mind you; when self-styled conservatives live pointless, unearned lives of waste and excess on money they either inherited or stole, it's the magic of lucky sperm shaking the invisible hand of the free marketplace. Which can be messy if you think about it.

But I digress. Forget the noisome idea that, according to Goldberg, POST's strengths are that he voted to confirm Robert Bork for SCOTUS, and to convict Bill Clinton for getting his pole smoked. Just think about how useless and anachronistic those references are in the first place. Conservatives' loathing runs deep and wide for POST; he's bucked them one too many times over the years with his showy displays of maverickness. They're not going to change their minds because he voted to confirm Robert Bork. So just as an argument, this a non-starter.

What's worse is that POST's current track record, as well as his campaign, is a complete shambles. Yet the Los Angeles Times wastes space that would have been better used for lingerie ads for this nonsense:

In response, McCain has decided to slap conservatives out of their haze. In what his campaign is billing as major speeches, the first on Wednesday at the Virginia Military Institute, McCain plans to make his candidacy a referendum on victory in Iraq. It is a truly bold and courageous gambit. At a time when the polls advise running away from the war, McCain will embrace it.

This is cheap and disingenuous, and any intellectually honest person would know it before even writing it in the first place. "Polls advise running away from the war" is a tremendously hollow translation of "a majority of American citizens, who still at least notionally run their country, have clearly and consistently voiced their disapproval for the war, both in its conceptual flaws and especially in the unspeakably incompetent planning of the postwar occupation". The electorate has been abundantly clear about this, and McCain, like Bush, has no plan to "win", nor even a definition, he simply keeps reiterating that "losing" is catastrophic, apparently not realizing that it's already lost, the rest is just triage.

And Goldberg had the nerve to criticize Juan Cole's judgment.